Calling for an “urgent inquiry by the Supreme Court into the role of social media and tech companies in amplifying the crime of Hate Speech,” the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has unequivocally condemned the alleged use of the Tek Fog app by the ruling-BJP in its press statement.
This statement comes in view of the striking report, published last week by TheWire, which investigates claims behind the use of ‘Tek Fog’, a highly sophisticated app used by online operatives to hijack major social media and encrypted messaging platforms and amplify right-wing propaganda to a domestic audience.
“Women journalists have been prime targets of the app. The Wire investigation lists women journalists who received up to one million abusive tweets between January and May 2021. They include Rana Ayyub, Barkha Dutt, Nidhi Razdan, Rohini Singh, Swati Chaturvedi, Sagarika Ghose, Manisha Pande, Faye D’Souza, Arfa Khanum Sherwani and Smita Prakash,” the DUJ statement reads.
It adds that “Dangerously, the app enables operatives to hijack inactive WhatsApp numbers, steal data about their contacts and send them messages. It creates a cloud database that categorises people by religion, language, age, gender and political leanings, so that they can be messaged suitably.”
The extent of the operation is genuinely shocking, NewsClick wrote earlier. While, in the past, various investigations have looked at BJP IT Cell's usage of Google Docs and other similar platforms for propaganda purposes on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc., this report highlights how operators utilise 'Tek Fog' to not only disseminate fake information but also to create fake accounts, generate auto-retweets and auto-shares to make particular extremist narratives and political campaigns appear more popular than they are.
DUJ has noted how the Tek Fog investigation has largely been ignored by the “big media”, with their attention largely reserved at the “controversy surrounding the Prime Minister’s visit to Punjab.”
The scribes’ union also highlights how in the investigation, “The Wire has identified two private companies, Persistent Systems and Mohalla Tech Pvt Ltd, that are reportedly responsible for developing the app. Mohalla Tech is the company behind Sharechat, a leading regional language social media platform which is funded by Twitter. Sharechat works in 24 languages and claims it has 160 million users. Persistent Systems is based in Nagpur and allegedly has close links with the Bharatiya Janata Party through its current election manager in Maharashtra. The companies are denying involvement with Tek Fog. In a detailed response Sharechat claims it systematically takes down hate speech and misinformation.”
“However, DUJ also notes with alarm the inadequate response of social media companies to complaints against hate accounts, fake accounts and fake news. Alt News has traced several such accounts on Facebook and Twitter but little action has been taken by tech companies.”
DUJ is the oldest body of journalists in the national capital. It was founded in 1949.